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Queer strife amid the collapse. Jewish fantasy of the shtetl. Two beginner-friendly roleplaying games of belonging outside belonging.
Queer strife amid the collapse. Jewish fantasy of the shtetl. Two beginner-friendly roleplaying games of belonging outside belonging.
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Inspiring the Apocalypse

Posted by Avery Alder (Creator)

Hi, it's Avery here! I wanted to talk for a moment about some of the sources that I continue to turn to for inspiration in working on Dream Askew.

When it comes to books, weirdly, almost all of these sources came out after the 2013 prototype version of Dream Askew. Station Eleven is perhaps my favourite novel, released the next year by Emily St. John Mandel. It follows the Travelling Symphony as they make their way between the last remnants of human civilization, bringing theatre and music to these lonely outposts. It reconstructs what happened on the night, twenty years earlier, that famed actor Arthur Leander fell dead upon the stage – the same night that people started to realize that the world was ending. It gracefully and beautifully brings these two stories into dialogue with one another. It's a post-apocalyptic novel, but one that centres upon questions of hope, legacy, community, and the theatre. A year later, Michelle Tea released Black Wave, a painful queer memoir that slowly reveals itself to be a story about the end of the world. It follows Michelle—a fictional memoirist who just happens to share the author's name, occupation, and place of residence—as her life in San Francisco slowly falls apart, and she makes the decision to leave her queer enclave behind. There are a few others on my list as well: Year of the Flood, The Dispossessed, and Signs Preceding the End of the World.

The movies that most inspired Dream Askew are the works of Gregg Araki. His carousel of irreverent, cynical, campy, satirical, and at times painfully earnest storytelling has always hit me really hard and been super thought-provoking. I watched the Teen Apocalypse trilogy as I was figuring out my own sexuality and identity, and Nowhere and The Doom Generation are both inspirations. 2010's Kaboom! is another on the list, a movie about how it takes more than a mystery cult and overwhelming existential dread to keep college students from acting dumb and horny.

And then there is the real world. I've spent years working to broaden my understanding of queer histories and queer communities. Dream Askew frames the apocalypse as a perpetual process, and the queer enclave as a contemporary artifact, and that's because it's a truth about the world as far as I understand it. The AIDS crisis was a queer apocalypse, and enclaves were formed—and obliterated—as a result of it. That's not the first or only time. From Radical Faerie communes to post-war dockside communities struggling to keep alive the queer connections people found in the service, from STAR House to tentatively-staked gayborhoods everywhere, the enclave is more than just a speculative device. We are constantly falling outside of the society intact. And so while Dream Askew is a work of fiction with a near-future setting, I'm also working to be really intentional about naming the real world truths it draws from. This was perhaps less true in the 2013 prototype version, but features like the Enclave Worksheet and Key Relationships really build up this part of the game.

I'm really excited about this game. I think it's one of my best pieces of work ever. I'm excited to share it with you all!


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    1. Puck Malamud on

      Thank you for sharing your inspirations!

    2. Avery Alder 2-time creator on

      The next thing on my reading list is Fierce Femmes & Notorious Liars and I have a sneaking suspicion it might make its way onto this list as well.

    3. Lex on

      I found the original version of Dream Askew years before I came out as trans, and it really resonated with me for reasons I didn’t have a vocabulary for yet. It’s been such a gift to get the revision to my table, as a trans woman playing with an entirely trans women-group, these years later. You’ve made a beautiful thing.

    4. Sean Nittner

      I love Station Eleven so much. Reading the book reminded me of a conversation we had years ago (about Dream Askew!) when you said AW usually starts with this cool day-in-the-life but then the chopper gang with guns shows up. What if that gang never showed up and we just played the people. So excited to do that in Dream Askew!